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Oldham 2 - Swindon Town 2
CHRIS Allen believes he can have a part to play in an end-of-season play-off push after being bravely thrust back into the first team fold by a bold Maurice Malpas last night.
The Town teenager seemed set to follow Kaid Mohamed out on loan in the non-League wilderness just a few weeks ago but, other clubs' reluctance to take a gamble on him appears to have worked in Swindon's favour.
The midfielder provided the composure on the ball that has been lacking in recent weeks on a filthy night up north as Malpas' brave selection policy almost paid off handsomely.
Shock decisions to drop the out-of-form Jerel Ifil and bring Pat Kanyuka in the heart of the defence, as well as bringing in Allen into a 4-3.5-2.5 formation, seemed a masterstroke at half time, with Town deservedly leading through Lee Peacock's 29th-minute strike.
But early second half goals from David Livermore and Mark Allott dampened the mood and, despite Peacock's 58th-minute headed equaliser, Town would have left Boundary Park knowing they had squandered another golden opportunity to really boost their top six ambitions.
Allen though showed the hardy travelling few glimpses of what he is capable of and justified his manager's decision to play Craig Easton in a foreign wider role, with Christian Roberts given the luxury to get forward at every opportunity.
His first appearance under Malpas almost became a dream one when he curled a 25-yard free kick agonisingly wide late on but he is hopeful he will get plenty more chances to make an impact between now and the end of the season He said: "I got told on Monday there was a possibility of me playing but I actually then went home ill so it was a case of coming in Tuesday morning and finding out if I was still playing. I was lucky I was.
"It was a hard night to play football but we tried to play.
"I thought I was going to be going out on loan but it is nice to hear that the manager wants me to stay. I think he wanted me to go before now so I was back for the run-in.
"Of course I hope I get to play a few more games and do my bit to help push us up the league."
It was certainly a different Town side that started last night than the team that so weakly lost to Walsall on Saturday, as they dominated one of the most one-sided first halves they have been involved in all season.
Peacock's close-range finish, after his initial header had been saved, was scant reward for a 45 minutes that saw them attack with verve and determination as they looked certainties for a crucial three points.
But those hopes were dashed immediately after the restart with David Livermore's fortunate equaliser on 50 minutes and then Mark Allott's 55th minute strike turning the game with Oldham's first two shots on target.
For both goals Town failed to react to a loose ball on the edge of the area but at least they reacted positively with Peacock equalising three minutes later, although Simon Cox was claiming the final touch on the line.
The point has done neither side much good in their attempts of catching the top six but the performance and spirit at least will have provided Robins' fans with a ray of hope.
Allen certainly won't get the nod for every game between now and the end of the season, with the physical nature of League One sometimes catching him out, but it is an option Malpas will keep close to him from now on.
"I think now it will be the case that we keep Chrissy," said Malpas. "You can see if we get a couple of injuries we are struggling in midfield.
"I would have preferred he went away for a month somewhere and came back.
"But that can't happen now because of the time of the deadline. He will stay and we will have to keep on working away.
"There are far more reserve games coming up as well so whether it is them or the first team we will see.
"We thought playing with three in the middle is right for Chris because it allows him to play. I thought he did well and I was delighted with his performance."